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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Isaiah 25

Verse 1

A PROLEPTIC SONG OF THE REDEEMED

This chapter is a prolepsis, that is, an anticipation of the rejoicing and praise of God which the redeemed of all ages will sing. However, the song of exultation contains other tremendously significant prophecies which seem to break into the song itself, as in Isaiah 25:6-12. The three paragraphs of the chapter are: praise of God for the great things he has done (Isaiah 25:1-5), the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and the prophecy of the end of death (Isaiah 25:6-8), and the ultimate triumph of God over all his enemies (Isaiah 25:9-12).

Isaiah 25:1-5

THE SONG

"O Jehovah, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things, even counsels of old in faithfulness and truth. For thou hast made of a city a heap, of a fortified city a ruin, a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built. Therefore shall a strong people glorify thee; a city of terrible nations shall fear thee. For thou hast been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. As the heat in a dry place wilt thou bring down the noise of strangers; as the heat by the shade of a cloud, the song of the terrible ones shall be brought low."

Peake has a perfect summary of these verses:

"The deliverance still lies in the future; the song is written from the standpoint of the redeemed community, and expresses its exultation over its salvation. God has overthrown the city; its inhabitants shall stand in awe of him. He has been a shelter to his distressed people when the blast of the violent has beaten on them like a winter storm. He has assuaged the oppression of the enemy, as the sun's scorching heat in a parched land is ameliorated by clouds."[1]

Rawlinson believed that the exultation expressed was made by Isaiah in his own person, and "not in the person of the Church,"[2] but we believe Peake's view is preferable.

"Counsels of old ..." (Isaiah 25:1). "The wonders for which God is praised were decreed in his counsels from all eternity; their accomplishment shows forth God's `faithfulness and truth.'"[3] Paul stressed this fact repeatedly. God's counsels were made "before the worlds" (1 Corinthians 2:8); they were "kept in silence through times eternal" (Romans 16:25); the mystery of salvation was hidden "for ages and generations" (Colossians 1:26), etc.

Isaiah 25:2 mentions "a city"; but this is not any particular city. The great cities that existed in Isaiah's day were Thebes (Egypt), Babylon, and Nineveh all three of which were destroyed within about a century after Isaiah's times; but no definite city is identified here. For ages, it has been understood that there is a connection here with "Mystery Babylon the Great" (Revelation 18), standing in the scripture as a symbol of the greedy and sinful cities of the world in all ages. A Methodist scholar, E. Stanley Jones, stated that, "A city is where greed is entrenched." Jamieson was sure, however, that "the city" is not Babylon, but "collectively stands for the cities of surrounding nations."[4]

God's making cities into "heaps" refers to the same event mentioned in Revelation 16:19, where it is related that "The cities of the Gentiles fell." "`Heaps' is a graphic picture of Babylon and Nineveh as they are this very day."[5] God's opposition to "the city" is a reference to God's hatred and ultimate destruction of the great urban cities of the earth, representing, as Leon Morris stated it, "The cities of civilization, the achievement of man's demon-driven pride; and they will collapse."[6]

"A city of terrible nations shall fear thee ..." (Isaiah 25:3). This shows that people of all nations, not Jews alone, will participate in the festivities of the Messianic banquet and joys of God's kingdom in Christ.

"The storm and the heat ..." (Isaiah 25:4-5). These are symbols that speak of God's enemies and of, "Their vain attempts to subdue the poor and the needy. In the end, they themselves will be subdued. In that day, only the Lord's people will be heard celebrating his mighty deeds."[7]

Peake pointed out that the word rendered "strangers" in Isaiah 25:2,5, should be read as "insolent."[8]

Verse 6

"And in this mountain will Jehovah of hosts make unto all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering that covereth all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He hath swallowed up death forever; and the Lord Jehovah will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the reproach of his people will he take away from off all the earth: for Jehovah hath spoken it."

"In this mountain ..." (Isaiah 25:6). This refers back to Isaiah 24:23 and means mount Zion, that is, Jerusalem. Part of these verses refer to the literal, earthly Jerusalem, because there is where Jesus was crucified, and that was the occasion when he destroyed death by giving his life on the Cross. On the other hand, the feast of good things for the "peoples (not people) of "all" nations is prophesied as a blessing of the Messianic kingdom, the spiritual mount Zion, the heavenly New Jerusalem.

This is one of the grandest and most wonderful passages in all the Word of God, and except for one other reference (Hosea 13:14), the very first reference to the abolition of death in all the Bible.

The feast of good things for God's people is treated first. The mention of wine "on the lees, well refined" is of interest. "Leaving, wine on the lees heightened its flavor and made it stronger."[9] However, this also tended to cloud the wine with sediment; but the expression "well refined" showed that the Prophet was here promising the very best wine possible. We should not consider the heavenly feast in a literal, sensuous way at all. These delicious things are symbols of a whole family of enjoyments and delights which men cannot know until they get to heaven. There are echoes of Isaiah 2:2-4 here.

"The veil that is spread over all nations ..." (Isaiah 25:7) This is a Hebraism explaining what is meant by the "face of the covering that covereth all peoples," and explained even further by the following verse, "He hath swallowed up death forever." Scholars do not agree on what is meant by the destruction of the "veil," Hailey thinks that it was the veil mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:14-16.[10] Dummelow stated that, "The face of the covering, etc. is put symbolically for the destruction of death,"[11] thus making `the face of the covering that covereth all peoples' and the `veil that is spread over all nations' parallel to each other and both of them meaning death itself. We believe that both of these scholars are correct. One cannot read this without being aware of the veil of the temple and the rending of it from the top to the bottom upon the occasion of Jesus' crucifixion.

THE VEIL

That veil of the temple was a symbol: (1) of Christ himself (Hebrews 10:19-22); (2) of death, as indicated by its location (symbolically) between the church (the sanctuary) and heaven (the Holy of Holies); (3) of equality among God's children, since it separated between the High Priest and the lesser priests; (4) of the veil of darkness that prevents unbelievers from understanding the Old Testament; and (5) of the law of Moses, being actually the pivotal instrument in that whole system. These are some of the symbolical connotations of the veil of the temple, the most significant fact about that veil being that it was "rent in twain." It is in that second condition of the veil, that is, after it was rent, that it symbolized Christ's entering in "through death" into that which is beyond the veil (Hebrews 6:19); it symbolized the opening of a new and living way for all men to be saved (Hebrews 10:20); it symbolized the destruction of death as stated by Isaiah in this very chapter; and it symbolized the opening up and clarification of countless passages in the Old Testament, which cannot ever be understood apart from their connection with Jesus Christ. Christ alone is indeed the "Key to the Scriptures." (See more complete discussion of all this in my New Testament Series, Vol. 10, pp. 172-174.)

Dummelow noted that Isaiah 25:8 reads, "He hath swallowed up death in victory." He further stated that this rendition is supported by a number of early Greek versions and by the apostle Paul's quotation of this place in 1 Corinthians 15:54."[12] Also, it is of great significance that in that very passage Paul also quoted Hosea 13:14, "O death where is thy victory; O death where is thy sting," that marvelous passage which precedes this one chronologically has been butchered and perverted by the translators of the so-called Good News Bible, to read as follows:

"Bring on your plagues, death!

Bring on your destruction, world of the dead!

I will no longer have pity on this people." (Hosea 13:14)

This is one of the most diabolical mistranslations of God's Word! It is no translation, but a contradictory change of the meaning, entitling this so-called Good News Bible to be entitled a corrupt Bible, no Bible at all, but a book that gives what scholars think God should have said, instead of what he actually said. Add to this the fact that the inspired apostle Paul's proper rendition of the passage in his quotation is also denied and contradicted at the same time!

Why? it may be asked did translators take such liberties with God's Word. The answer is that they did so upon the same premise that Satan used when he contradicted God's Word to Eve. Oh yes, they have a silly dictum, one of the crooked rules enforced in infidel seminaries, that the same prophet could not possibly have pronounced cursing and blessings in the same prophecy, and certainly not in the same paragraph. Thus, they affirmed that what the critics wrote is "more likely" to have been what Hosea thought than what is found in the sacred text!. Now, of course, that crooked rule would destroy the words of Christ himself who mentioned heaven and hell in the same line, and also the wide gate and broad way to destruction, along with the strait gate and the narrow way to life eternal in the very same verse. Christian people should be diligently aware of what evil men are trying to do to the word of God.

Verse 9

"And it shall come to pass in that day, Lo, this is our God, we have waited for him, and he will save us, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. For in this mountain will the hand of Jehovah rest; and Moab shall be trodden down in his place, even as straw is trodden down in the water of a dunghill. And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst thereof, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim; but Jehovah will lay low his pride together with the craft of his hands. And the high fortress of thy walls hath he brought down, laid low, and brought to the ground, even to the dust."

As Payne noted, this passage is offensive to modern ears, as the very idea of a condemned man having been thrown into a pit dunghill filled with water and fighting to swim out of it is by no means something pleasant to think about; but, on the other hand, God reveals to us in passages of this type just how utterly undesirable the status of wicked people is sure to be when God's judgment comes upon them. Moab, in this passage, seems to have been singled out, not as a single nation awaiting God's punishment, but as "A representative of all the obdurately hostile and unbelieving world whose God-resisting peoples shall be mowed down in the final destruction."[13]

All of the figures that God uses in the Bible to describe the final punishment of the wicked are all repulsive: (1) the lake of fire; (2) the perpetual silence; (3) the outer darkness;, (4) where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth; (5) where the fire is not quenched and the worm dieth not; (6) a pool of blood up to the horses bridles for 200 miles! etc. This description is the seventh;, (7) a man trying to swim out of a watered dung hole! Rather than being offended by such descriptions, men should strive to avoid the place or condition described.

"Where is death's sting? where grave thy victory?

Where all the pain?

Now that thy King the veil that hung o'er thee

Hath rent in twain?"[14]

These precious lines from a hymn are an appropriate way to close our study of this tremendous chapter.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Isaiah 25". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/isaiah-25.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.